Tuesday, March 19, 2013
"The Consent of the People"
I was listening to this sermon this morning on the history of the Reformation, and I highly recommend that you at least listen to the first fifteen minutes, wherein Joe Morecraft ties Romans 12 to Romans 13, and discusses civil government from a biblical perspective.
This sermon was first delivered back in the Clinton days, but is every bit as relevant today as it was then (then again, all Biblical sermons are relevant, regardless of the day or season or current events).
He said something in there that I know and has been clear to me for some time now, but is worthy of repeating. It's pretty simple, and it is something every Christian should acknowledge:
Civil powers get their authority from God. They also get their mandate and limitations from God as well, but this is something many people deny (it's always more fun to read authority out of the Scriptures, and close the Bible before you get to the part about one's responsibility to God and to others), and the results of this can be plainly seen throughout history as dictator after dictator has secured the loyalty of his nation's clergy and Christians, often using Romans 13 as a pretext.
I know that most Americans (even professing Christians!) believe that a government's power is derived from the consent of the people, and there is a sense in which this is somewhat true, but I am going to have to differ with the mainstream here and shoot this sacred cow (sacred cows make the best burgers anyway).
The idea of "the consent of the governed" comes in large part (but not wholly) from the influence of the sensualist John Locke (whose self-refuting sensualism was expertly exposed for the dangerous nonsense that it was here. Dabney's work on sensualism and its consequences is eerie in its accuracy, a hundred plus years after the fact...). As I said, there is a sense in which this "consent of the governed" principle is true and valid, and I do believe that a Republic is a valid (Biblical) form of government, but taken to its logical end, the result is the disaster that is modern liberal democracy -the rule of the mob, the enslaving of the 49% by the 51%, a system where numbers alone make might, and might makes right.
Kinda like, well, right now.
The current condition of the US is a consequence of a government that is ran solely by the consent of the people, that is, where man/people/citizens and their demands and desires are seen and treated as sovereign. The voters rule, no matter how capricious, shortsighted, or murderous their demands might be.
The current situation in Greece and the Eurozone is likewise an outworking of the same- the people wanted a profligate and therefore overly large government (because one presupposes and is built upon the other) verses a small, focused Romans 13 government, and they got it. Now that the consequences of this are hitting home both in the EU and in the US, the people are upset- yet this sort of government is exactly what the people have ordained.
Yet these sorts of governments are far from what God has ordained.
Romans 13 demands submission to God-ordained civil authority in the same way that Ephesians 5 demands the wife's submission to the husband (and, it should be noted, the very same submission of one Christian to another early on in the chapter). In both cases, as good leaders know and as the Bible plainly indicates, a very heavy burden is placed on the shoulders of the one being placed in authority.
Give the first 14-15 minutes of the above-linked sermon a listen- it's definitely worth the time.
If governments treat man as sovereign, an unsustainable, decadent, profligate, tyrannical government will alwaysalwaysalways be the result. The history of Israel in the Bible and the currently agreed-upon history of the world plainly bears this out. The rejection of God in the civil realm will always lead to tyranny.
Just look around.